kitchen table math, the sequel: Six to Eight Black Men

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Six to Eight Black Men

I read the David Sedaris piece on Christmas in Holland a couple of mornings ago -- hilarious. Starts slowly, with a somewhat protracted rumination on gun laws in the hinterlands, but once he gets to Holland the piece takes off. (I would probably feel differently if I were from Holland, as opposed to the hinterlands, myself. Here's Leon De Winter on Santa Claus's Dutch Uncle in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. De Winter's account doesn't mention six to eight black men.)

From the Sedaris piece:
In France and Germany, gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, while in Holland the children receive presents on December 5, in celebration of Saint Nicholas Day. It sounded sort of quaint until I spoke to a man named Oscar, who filled me in on a few of the details as we walked from my hotel to the Amsterdam train station.

Unlike the jolly, obese American Santa, Saint Nicholas is painfully thin and dresses not unlike the pope, topping his robes with a tall hat resembling an embroidered tea cozy. The outfit, I was told, is a carryover from his former career, when he served as a bishop in Turkey.

One doesn't want to be too much of a cultural chauvinist, but this seemed completely wrong to me. For starters, Santa didn't use to do anything. He's not retired, and, more important, he has nothing to do with Turkey. The climate's all wrong, and people wouldn't appreciate him. When asked how he got from Turkey to the North Pole, Oscar told me with complete conviction that Saint Nicholas currently resides in Spain, which again is simply not true.
Six to Eight Black Men

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